book round-ups, holiday reading

What I read on my holidays: Summer 2019 edition

It’s already July and I haven’t posted this, so I thought I ought to get my act in gear.  I had a fabulous week in the glamourous south of France in mid-June and took full advantage of my sun lounger time to read.  As the school summer holidays are not far off now, here’s a few of my favourites from the week for some inspiration for your holiday.

Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean

Cover of The Van Apfel Girls are Gone

This is an atmospheric and chilling story of the events of one boiling hot summer in a small Australian town when three young girls went missing. Told through the eyes of Tikka – eleven years old at the time and still haunted by the events when she returns to her home town years later – as an adult you have a massive sense of foreboding and quiet horror at the events in the lead up to the disappearance.  This is so well written and the descriptions so good that you can feel and almost touch the heat and the unexplained smell of the town.  It’s also funny and endearing and if I didn’t find the ending entirely satisfying, I think that may have been part of the point of it.

Fumbled by Alexa Martin

cover of Fumbled

Intercepted was a Book of the Week and this was a runner up in my best new books of 2019 so far but Fumbled deserves more than just a passing mention.  As regular readers will know, I’m not a big fan of the secret baby trope, but this one is actually one that worked for me and without making either parent seem like a bad person.  The heroine is feisty, the hero actually listens to her and respects her point of view and they talk about their problems rather than ignore them.  And I liked that it dealt with the issue of brain injuries in the NFL and in (American) football generally. I like Alexa Martin’s voice and her connection to the game (her husband is an ex-pro) really shines through.

An Act of Villany by Ashley Weaver

Cover of An Act of Villainy

This is the fourth in the Amory Ames series of murder mysteries set in the 1930s.  This is right in my Daisy Dalrymple/Phryne Fisher sweet spot and with a smart bright young thing married to a reformed (we hope) philanderer.  This has a theatre-centric plot that reminded me (in a good way) of the theatre-set installments of Ngaio Marsh’s Alleyn books. The banter is good, the characters are fun – and the central relationship between Amory and Milo is more complicated than the usual husband doesn’t want the wife involved dynamic that you get in a lot of these series.

And on top of all of these, there were lots of Susan Mallery books (mostly from the Fools Gold series), Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents (after I bought it while writing the where to start with Pratchett post), the latest Rivers of London (which is excellent but really needs to be read in series order) as well as BotW pick Maud West.

I haven’t done specific links for purchasing each book today – but these should be easy to find on Kindle or Kobo or to get hold of from your local independent bookseller or Foyles or Waterstones or similar.

 

holiday reading

Summer Reading 2017 Edition

My summer holiday already seems like a long time ago, but the schools have only just broken up, so many of you may be yet to make your summer trips.  So for your delectation as I sleep off my final nightshift of the run, here are some beach reading suggestions from me.

Big Sexy Love by Kirsty Greenwood

Cover of Kirsty Greenwoods Big Sexy Love
I know Kirsty through Novelicious – I can’t believe I know someone who can write a book this good!

I loved this latest novel from Kirsty Greenwood.  It’s like the book love child of a late 90s/early 2000s romantic comedy and the sort of screwball antics a drunken modern day Katherine Hepburn in Philadelphia story might get up to.  Big, Sexy Love tells the story of anxious Olive, who takes refuge from her fears in routine but is forced out of her comfort zone by her dying best friend Birdie.  I laughed, I nearly cried (in a corner of the newsroom on my “lunch” break at 3am) and I loved the romance.  But most of all I loved the friendship between Olive and Birdie – they’re there for each other, through thick and thin, with humour but without jealousy, judgement or ulterior motive. We need more books with Olives and Birdies.  Read this on the beach – but maybe not on the plane for reasons that will become apparent if you read it!  And it’s a total bargain at 99p on Kindle at time of writing.

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub 

Copy of Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
My copy came from the bookshelf at work where Arts team put books when theyre done with them – thats why its an arc. But its been on the pile for a while…

One of my favourite sort of books to read on my holidays are “rich people problem” novels, and Modern Lovers by Emma Straub is a really good one.  You’re following a two couples and their children over the course of one summer.  Twenty years earlier, three of them were in a band together and now Hollywood wants to make a film about the fourth member, who made it big and then died young.   Will they do it?  Are they ready for the revelations that that might bring?  And what happens when your kids start to be cooler than you?  If you don’t like reading about rich, privelieged hipsters in Brooklyn then give this a miss, but if you do, well, it’s a joy.

Dead is Good by Jo Perry

Cover of Dead is Good by Jo Perry
I love the current dog-centric covers for Charlie and Rose

If you’re after a mystery to read on the beach, try Perry’s Charlie and Rose series from my old friends and frequent supplier of excellent noir-y books, Fahrenheit Press.  Dead is Good is the third book following the afterlife adventures of Charlie and Rose the dog as they wander Los Angeles trying to solve crimes but unable to actually influence the outcome of anything (or at least not often).  It may sound a bit meta, but it’s a lot of fun.  In book 3, Charlie is trying to keep his ex-girlfriend alive and figure out who it is who wants her dead.  And the details about Los Angeles are a joy.  I could have read another 50 pages at least.  Dead is Good is £1.99 on Kindle at time of writing – but if you want to start at the beginning and find out how Charlie ended up as a ghost, then Dead is Better is only 99p.

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

The cover of How to Stop Time
Another lovely cover – this one is simple but striking too.

If you love historical fiction or books set across different periods, Matt Haig’s new novel may be for you.  It’s not your usual time slip book though because although the narrative jumps around between the present day and various points in the last 500 years, our lead character is the same person.  Tom may look like he’s 41, but he’s actually hundreds of years old.  He’s lived through everything from the Elizabethan era Britain to Jazz Age Paris and now he’s a history teacher in modern day London.  It’s the perfect cover – teaching children about the things that he’s lived through – as long as he doesn’t slip up and fall in love.  Because last time that happened it didn’t end well.  This kept me engrossed on several train journeys this week, and I couldn’t wait to find out how it turned out. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s going to be turned into a film, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, so everyone is going to be talking about that when it comes out and you can be all smug because you read it first!

A couple of other suggestions for you: there’s more romantic comedy in or if you want something older Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me;  there are more rich people problems in Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan; if you want some more travels through time – albeit with a different tone entirely – then try The Chronicles of St Mary Series by Jodi Taylor  and if you still haven’t read Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible yet, that’s out in paperback now (and was only £1.99 on Kindle at time of writing).

And if you need even more, may I point you back in the direction of my favourite beach reads from my holiday, which I loved so much I’ve already written whole posts of their own about them:  Written in Dead Wax and Standard Deviation.

Happy Reading!

holiday reading, The pile

Weekend Bonus: My ereader changed my life

A bonus post for you this weekend with what may seem like an over dramatic title, but as I was relaxing on the beach last week I realised that without my ereader, my holidays would be very different.  Allow me to explain.

Kindle in a case
One very loved kindle and slightly battered case…

As you may have worked out by now, I am a fast reader.  I read twelve books during my week in Croatia – and that’s not even the most I’ve  read during a week away.  I’d either need an extra suitcase or to take no clothes with me to take enough reading material for a week on the beach and the flights to get me to said beach.  And that’s before you take into account my notoriously flighty nature and tendency to want to read something, anything other than the books that I’ve brought with me*.

What you may not know is that I’m not good when left alone with my own head.  I have to have something to listen to to go to sleep – silence makes my brain start obsessing over things – did I do everything I should have done at work today, why haven’t I done x or y, death, that sort of thing.  So laying on the beach doing nothing was never my sort of holiday because although a bit of people watching is fun,  I can’t just about doing doing nothing for hours but there was no way I could take enough books to keep me going for a week. But sometimes you don’t want a holiday full of activities, where you’ve always got places to be or things to be doing.  Sometimes you just need to relax and unwind and do nothing and the ereader means that I can do that.

I was a (relatively) late adopter of ereaders.  I like the feel of books, I like the smell of them.  I like the way your favourites fall open to your favourite passages and the way you can lend books you love to the people that you love.  I managed the whole of my first year of the long commute without an ereader – taking proper books with me in my bag and occasionally using the Kindle app for free books on my phone when I ran  out of reading material before I got home.  But then came EURO 2012 – when I was going to be spending a month away from home in Poland. I knew I wouldn’t have space in my suitcase for books, but might well have some reading time.  I treated myself to a Kindle Touch (the first generation of them I think) and I’ve never looked back.

This holiday we took 4 actual books with us between us – a Janet Evanovich (that I’d already read) for Him Indoors who is working his way through the Steph Plum series one holiday at a time, two books he picked out from a selection from my to-read pile that he would like to read too and my holiday book – the Andrew Cartmel that was this week’s BotW.  He read the Steph Plum and then nicked my kindle to continue his Vicky Bliss odyssey.  I finished two of the three and started the other.  Without the ereader(s) we would have been lost.  The iPad isn’t allowed on the beach, but in the evenings we were often to be found relaxing on the balcony, him with the Kindle and me with the iPad.

If I didn’t like a book, I didn’t have to finish it (I hated one of the paperbacks and although I did finish it, I abandoned it to its fate at the hotel, clearing space in the suitcase for an extra bag of sweets for my long-suffering work colleagues) and equally if I loved a book and wanted the next in the series or another by the same author, the joys of wifi meant that I could just buy it.  I stocked it up with some cozy crimes and some favourite authors before we went and I had more than enough choice to keep me going for the week.*

My trusty Kindle is almost exactly five years old now and is groaning with the weight of the books stored on it.  I use it on the train every time I travel too or from work, I use it at the hostel on the nights I’m way from home and I use it on my breaks in the early hours during the dreaded night shifts.  I’m debating getting a new one – because reading on the iPad is just not the same – I’m sentimentally attached to my worn, well loved Kindle that makes me loath to let it go.  Although it would mean next holiday we’d have two to use on the beach…

If only I’d had an e-reader back in the day when I used to have to go on camping trips!

*I think this is the same tendency that makes me not want to eat packed lunches that I’ve made for myself.

**To be honest, I’ve probably got enough to keep me going for a year if only authors didn’t keep publishing new books.